What does it mean to advocate for yourself in a doctor’s office?

What does it mean to advocate for yourself in a doctor’s office

Former CTV reporter Megan Shaw recently shared a deeply personal story about her struggle with unexplained bleeding, and it quickly became the most popular article on our website. Why? Well, we think it’s because so many other women have had their health concerns dismissed or sidelined, and so Megan’s experience struck a chord.

Even in countries with advanced healthcare systems, women are too often told to just deal with their pain. So when somebody like Megan speaks openly, it lets other women know they’re not alone.

To get the treatment we need – and the care we deserve – we have to advocate for ourselves, and that requires bravery. “Advocate for yourself within the healthcare system” — we hear this refrain from our guests, our contributors, and our families. But what does it actually mean? And what kind of skills does it require? 

We found this article from Vox, which offers advice on how to advocate for yourself at the doctor’s office. We encourage you to read it, but here are some key tips:

  1. Preparation is key. Create a list of everything to discuss, ranked by importance. Specify appointment goals, whether they include a diagnosis or prescription refill. Keep a symptom diary, providing specific details about symptoms.
  2. If possible, bring along a support person. Your friend or family member can help ask questions and provide additional perspective.
  3. Make notes during the visit. This will help you to ask follow-up questions for clarification.
  4. Ask questions. There is no such thing as a ‘silly question’ when it comes to your health. Seek clarification on the reasons behind tests or treatment plans. Request additional information, research, or materials related to your condition or medication.
  5. Push back against discrimination. Speak up if you think you are experiencing bias, discrimination, or dismissal. Use statements to address specific issues, such as fatphobia, homophobia, or racism.

While we recognize it might be hard for you to find your own doctor in Canada, that doesn’t mean you should tolerate your issues being ignored. Advocating for yourself is crucial. This contributes to better overall healthcare experiences for you and those around you.